Materials and Coatings
front image
Carbonated Cement for Production of Concrete with Improved Properties
The NASA cement innovation describes a method to make solid carbon material from CO<sub>2</sub> captured during the cement-making process, and for using that carbon material in the mixture to improve cement properties. Doing so provides a direct use for the captured CO<sub>2</sub>, eliminating any CO<sub>2</sub> storage/disposal issues and providing an improved cement product. The innovation employs a chemical reaction, known as the Bosch process, which uses hydrogen gas and catalysis to reduce the CO<sub>2</sub> to solid carbon and water. Cement manufacturing is uniquely suited to the use of the Bosch process. Cement manufacturing requires high temperatures, and harnessing this excess heat limits the total energy required to maintain a Bosch process at a cement plant. Also, cement contains iron, a metal shown to be an exceptional catalyst for the Bosch process. Thus, the cement product itself can be used as the catalyst for the reaction, also serving as a carbon sink. This eliminates any requirements for the storage or disposal of the waste carbon captured from CO<sub>2</sub> emissions. Test evaluations at the bench scale have provided encouraging indications of enhanced mechanical properties for the carbon-containing cement materials. In particular, the findings suggest that the carbon in the concrete might delay the environmental breakdown of concrete due to the blocking effect of the carbon on harmful ions (e.g., chlorine).
power generation and storage
solar cell
Advanced Efficiency Flexible Solar Film
By varying the number, type, orientation and functionality of various solar panel materials, a diverse family of devices can be constructed that can be tailored for many operational concepts. Various solar panel designs can be constructed that include active, cooling, and solar absorbance layers with tailored characteristics. This flexibility is achieved by arranging multiple solar absorbance layers that are coupled to polymer composite solar absorbance layers. The polymer composite can contain metal salts, oxides and/or carbon nanotubes as needed for various applications. The polymer can be chosen for flexibility or stiffness characteristics as needed by the designer. Configurations can include cooling layers with zinc oxides, indium oxides, and/or carbon nanotubes coupled between active layers. The carbon nanotubes can be aligned in a particular direction of the second cooling layer to achieve a heat flow bias. The cooling layer may be grooved to match other functional layers to increase the surface area for heat transfer.
power generation and storage
Solar Powered
Solar Powered Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Conversion
This technology consists of a photoelectrochemical cell composed of thin metal oxide films. It uses sunlight (primarily the ultraviolet (UV), visible and Infrared (IR) portions)) and inexpensive titanium dioxide composites to perform the reaction. The device can be used to capture carbon dioxide produced in industrial processes before it is emitted to the atmosphere and convert it to a useful fuel such as methane. These devices can be deployed to the commercial market with low manufacturing and materials costs. They can be made extremely compact and efficient and used in sensor and detector applications.
information technology and software
The Yellow Sea
MERRA/AS and Climate Analytics-as-a-Service (CAaaS)
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center now offers a new capability for meeting this Big Data challenge: MERRA Analytic Services (MERRA/AS). MERRA/AS combines the power of high-performance computing, storage-side analytics, and web APIs to dramatically improve customer access to MERRA data. It represents NASAs first effort to provide Climate Analytics-as-a-Service. Retrospective analyses (or reanalyses) such as MERRA have long been important to scientists doing climate change research. MERRA is produced by NASAs Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO), which is a component of the Earth Sciences Division in Goddards Sciences and Exploration Directorate. GMAOs research and development activities aim to maximize the impact of satellite observations in climate, weather, atmospheric, and land prediction using global models and data assimilation. These products are becoming increasingly important to application areas beyond traditional climate science. MERRA/AS provides a new cloud-based approach to storing and accessing the MERRA dataset. By combining high-performance computing, MapReduce analytics, and NASAs Climate Data Services API (CDS API), MERRA/AS moves much of the work traditionally done on the client side to the server side, close to the data and close to large compute power. This reduces the need for large data transfers and provides a platform to support complex server-side data analysesit enables Climate Analytics-as-a-Service. MERRA/AS currently implements a set of commonly used operations (such as avg, min, and max) over all the MERRA variables. Of particular interest to many applications is a core collection of about two dozen MERRA land variables (such as humidity, precipitation, evaporation, and temperature). Using the RESTful services of the Climate Data Services API, it is now easy to extract basic historical climatology information about places and time spans of interest anywhere in the world. Since the CDS API is extensible, the community can participate in MERRA/ASs development by contributing new and more complex analytics to the MERRA/AS service. MERRA/AS demonstrates the power of CAaaS and advances NASAs ability to connect data, science, computational resources, and expertise to the many customers and applications it serves.
Power Generation and Storage
NEW CFC Front Image
Cryogenic Flux Capacitor
Storage and transfer of fluid commodities such as oxygen, hydrogen, natural gas, nitrogen, argon, etc. is an absolute necessity in virtually every industry on Earth. These fluids are typically contained in one of two ways; as low pressure, cryogenic liquids, or as a high pressure gases. Energy storage is not useful unless the energy can be practically obtained ("un-stored") as needed. Here the goal is to store as many fluid molecules as possible in the smallest, lightest weight volume possible; and to supply ("un-store") those molecules on demand as needed in the end-use application. The CFC concept addresses this dual storage/usage problem with an elegant charging/discharging design approach. The CFC's packaging is ingeniously designed, tightly packing aerogel composite materials within a container allows for a greater amount of storage media to be packed densely and strategically. An integrated conductive membrane also acts as a highly effective heat exchanger that easily distributes heat through the entire container to discharge the CFC quickly, it can also be interfaced to a cooling source for convenient system charging; this feature also allows the fluid to easily saturate the container for fast charging. Additionally, the unit can be charged either with cryogenic liquid or from an ambient temperature gas supply, depending on the desired manner of refrigeration. Finally, the heater integration system offers two promising methods, both of which have been fabricated and tested, to evenly distribute heat throughout the entire core, both axially and radially.
power generation and storage
Battery Charge Equalizer System
Battery Charge Equalizer System
The innovation consists of a transformer array connected to a battery array through rectification and filtering circuits. The transformer array is connected to a drive circuit and a timing and control circuit, which enables individual battery cells or cell banks to be charged. The timing and control circuit connects to a charge controller that uses battery instrumentation to determine which battery bank to charge. The system is ultra lightweight because it uses much fewer than one transformer per battery cell. For instance, 40 battery cells can be balanced with an array of just five transformers. The innovation can charge an individual cell bank at the same time while the main battery charger is charging the high-voltage battery system. Conventional equalization techniques require complex and costly electrical circuitry to achieve cell monitoring and balancing. Further, such techniques waste the energy from the most charged cells through a dummy resistive load (regulator), which is inefficient and generates excess heat. In contrast, this system equalizes battery strings by selectively charging cells that need it. The technology maintains battery state-of-charge to improve battery life and performance. In addition, the technology provides a fail-safe operation and a novel built-in electrical isolation for the main charge circuit, further improving the safety of high-voltage Li-ion batteries.
power generation and storage
Source: shutterstock (need to talk to Kristina)

Closed-Cycle Strayton Supports Next Generation Sustainable Electric Power
Next Generation Closed Strayton Engine Design
The core Strayton generator technology consists of a gas turbine engine with short, axial pistons installed inside the hollow turbine shaft. These pistons form a Stirling engine that cycles via thermo-acoustic waves, transferring heat from the turbine blades to the compressor stage, which improves overall engine performance. Power to an alternator is, thus, delivered from both turbine shaft rotation and the oscillation of the internal pistons. This synergistic relationship is markedly enhanced in a closed-cycle system, where the sealed turbine engine recirculates a working fluid heated via an external source, such as a hydrogen fuel cell and combustor. This system supports higher compression ratios, reduces the turbine diameter to less than 4, and eliminates the need for large recuperators. Operational efficiency is projected to extend into the low temperature range (750 C), reducing the need for advanced materials and providing cleaner combustion for hydrogen-based applications. Pressurized, inert working fluids also replace mechanical bearings and gearboxes, enabling years of maintenance-free operation. The fuel cell and Stirling cycle produce 10% of the total system energy, while the Brayton cycle produces 90%. Other external heat sources could include nuclear, solar, or biogas. Conservative estimates for the hydrogen fuel-cell configuration lifetime are in the 100,000 hour range.
power generation and storage
Optical Fiber for Solar Cells
Optimum Solar Conversion Cell Configurations
A solar cell manufactured from this new optical fiber has photovoltaic (PV) material integrated into the fiber to enable electricity generation from unused light, including non-visible portions of the spectrum and visible light not transmitted to a lighting application. These new solar cells are based around cylindrical optical fibers, providing two distinct advantages over the flat panels that lead to increased efficiency. The core fiber, used to transmit light, can be adjusted to increase or decrease the amount of available light that is transmitted to the lighting application at any point in real time. This invention can be applied wherever optical concentrators are used to collect and redirect incident light. Wavelengths as large as 780 nanometers (nm) can be used to drive the conversion process. This technology has very low operating costs and environmental impacts (in particular, no greenhouse gas emissions). The fiber uses low-cost polymer materials. It is lightweight and flexible, and can be manufactured using low-cost solution processing techniques. Such multifunctional materials have great potential for the future of solar and photovoltaic devices. They will enable new devices that are small and lightweight that can be used without connection to existing electrical grids.
power generation and storage
JPL researchers replaced the metal in traditional heat exchangers with graphite and used a mini-channel design to further increase thermal performance.
High-Performance, Lightweight, Easy-to-Fabricate Heat Exchanger
Researchers at JPL have developed, built, and tested an innovative heat exchanger that offers reduced thermal expansion, increased structural strength, low pressure drop, and improved thermal performance while lowering the weight associated with typical heat exchangers. This innovation would benefit the commercial thermoelectric generator, aircraft, and industrial processing (i.e., glass, steel, petrochemical, cement, aluminum) industries by improving energy management/efficiency, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and increasing system durability due to the reduced stress from thermal expansion. <b>The Problem</b> Thermoelectric generator systems require high-performance hot-side and cold-side heat exchangers to provide the temperature differential needed to transfer thermal energy while withstanding temperatures up to 650 &#176;C. Because the hot-side heat exchangers must have a high heat flux, they are often made of metals such as stainless steel or Inconel<sup>&#174;</sup> alloys. Although these materials can operate at high temperatures, resist corrosion, and are chemically stable, they also have several drawbacks: (1) Their lower thermal conductivity negatively affects their thermal performance. (2) Their higher thermal expansion leads to stresses that compromise system structural integrity. (3) Their high mass/volume reduces the power density of generator systems into which they are integrated. As a result, they are difficult to integrate into viable energy recovery systems. They also make the systems unreliable, non-durable, and susceptible to failures caused by thermal-structural expansion. <b>The Solution</b> JPL researchers chose to replace the metal in traditional heat exchangers with graphite, which offers an improved conductivity-to-density ratio in thermal applications as well as a low coefficient of thermal expansion. In addition, they used a mini-channel design to further increase thermal performance. Combining more advanced materials with the innovative thermal design has yielded significant improvements in performance. For example, a 200-cm<sup>3</sup>, 128-g version of JPL's exchanger successfully transported 1,100 W from exhaust at nearly 550 &#176;C with approximately 20 W/cm<sup>2</sup> thermal flux and a pressure drop of only 0.066 psi. JPL's technology combines lightweight, high-strength graphite material with a mini-channel design that offers high thermal performance. Further development and testing are underway. <em>Inconel is a registered trademark of Special Materials Corporation.</em>
power generation and storage
Battery Management System
Battery Management System
The technology is comprised of a simple and reliable circuit that detects a single bad cell within a battery pack of hundreds of cells and it can monitor and balance the charge of individual cells in series. NASA's BMS is cost effective and can enhance safety and extend the life of critical battery systems, including high-voltage Li-ion batteries that are used in electric vehicles and other next-generation renewable energy applications. The BMS uses saturating transformers in a matrix arrangement to monitor cell voltage and balance the charge of individual battery cells that are in series within a battery string. The system includes a monitoring array and a voltage sensing and balancing system that integrates simply and efficiently with the battery cell array, limiting the number of pins and the complexity of circuitry in the battery. The arrangement has inherent galvanic isolation, low cell leakage currents, and allows a single bad or imbalanced cell in a series of several hundred to be identified. Cell balancing in multi-cell battery strings compensates for weaker cells by equalizing the charge on all the cells in the chain, thus extending battery life. Voltage sensing helps avoid damage from over-voltage that can occur during charging and from under-voltage that can occur through excessive discharging.
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